Hudson Fire Department going digital

HUDSON – Using a mixture of grants, the Fire Department is slowly moving into the modern, digital age.

The department has already purchased several digital radios for its fire engines and other vehicles. The department also anticipates receiving portable digital radios and buying equipment for its dispatch center.

Although the department currently has digital radios, the dispatch center isn’t equipped to receive or transmit digitally. The radios are being used, but on a different frequency.

The department hopes to move completely into the digital age by late spring or early summer, Fire Chief Shawn Murray said.

The plan is part of an ongoing effort by the police and fire departments to operate on the same frequencies and to upgrade their equipment.

Currently, firefighters operate on UHF frequency, a frequency that not many departments in the state still use, according to police officials.

If police officers at an incident have to communicate with the Fire Department, they have to relay messages by contacting the police dispatcher, who, in turn, contacts a fire dispatcher.

A warrant article to combine the two communications systems, which included renovating the police dispatch center and moving fire dispatch, failed at Town Meeting last March. It would have cost an estimated $878,000.

The funding for the Fire Department’s new equipment has come from state and federal grants.

The department received about 31 digital radios worth $95,109 from the state, and it expects to receive more than $159,000 worth of portable digital radios.

Funds from federal homeland security grants are also being used to purchase the equipment. However, in some cases, the town has to spend the money first and then be reimbursed through a grant.

The goal in purchasing new equipment is two-fold, Murray said. The department wants to be able to communicate with other agencies locally and regionally, and improve transmission and reception of radio systems.

Once everything is on line, the department will be able to communicate with other agencies across the state, he said.

There are some areas in town where firefighters cannot receive signals on their radios, such as the Hudson Speedway and in some buildings in the south end of town, Murray said.

The Fire Department is researching how it can improve its radio transmissions in different areas of town.

The available grants have helped move the project along, Murray noted.

“We’ve taken advantage of the opportunity,” he said. “(We’re) moving forward, improving our radio system.”